By Dustin Henggeler

A late bloom for the North Nodaway Mustangs softball team was not enough to overturn the steady bats brought on by the DeKalb Tigers August 29. The Mustangs suffered a 7-5 in Hopkins loss at the hands of the Tigers.

Unable to adjust to the slow pitching brought on by DeKalb’s Averyl Crouse, North Nodaway found themselves at the mercy of the Tigers’ defense with all too many pop flies.

“The girls had just come off one of the fastest pitchers we’d seen last night and were forced to face one of the slower pitchers we’ll probably see all season tonight,” North Nodaway Coach Kit Meiners said. “But this game is all about making adjustments and I thought we could have done a better job of that tonight.”

The Mustangs earned one run early to match DeKalb at 1-1 after the first inning. Ashley Thompson put away an RBI triple to start things off for North Nodaway. The following inning remained scoreless for both.

In the top of the third, a home run initiated DeKalb’s batting lineup as the Tigers amassed three total runs as North Nodaway’s once calm and collected defense looked stunned. Meiners said the home run had taken a toll on her team’s mental game, beginning on the mound.

“Keagan O’Riley pitched nearly every inning of every game for North Nodaway last season, so I knew coming in that she’d be strong on the mound. And she trusts her defense, too,” Meiners said. “So when that home run hit, I think she sort of fell apart because she felt she let her team down and things just snowballed from there.”

North Nodaway was unable to respond and DeKalb added two more to its lead in the top of the fourth for a 6-1 lead into the top of the fifth inning. The Mustangs seemed to regain their composure there, but were unable to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation the next inning, despite only a single out.

The Tigers scored one more run in the top of the seventh for a six-point lead and even picked up an early out in the bottom of the inning to nearly dash any hopes North Nodaway had of a comeback. A fumbled infield hit from Kandace Damgar changed all that as the Mustangs looked to be a whole new team at bat. Shai Dailey followed Damgar with a deep hit into left field to put runners on second and third. A sacrifice hit deep left by MaKayla Cross led the scoring as Thompson and Emma Hart also picked up RBIs along with Thompson stealing home on an overthrown ball to third base.

North Nodaway managed to chip away at DeKalb’s lead down to a two-point lead, but the Tigers regained control in time to end the inning for the 7-5 win.

The loss puts the Mustangs at 5-3 for the season, but Meiners is confident that they can put together more complete games than just late bloomers.

“The girls joke about how they like to be the comeback kids,” Meiners said. “It seems like we wait until that last inning, which is a good thing if we were closer in score. But when you’re down by six runs, that’s a hard thing to pull off.”

For more photos, see the printed Nodaway News Leader.